Ireland out as Arsenal players hit the target on international duty

So, Ireland will not be going to the World Cup next summer having been thoroughly dismantled last night by a Denmark side, some really dodgy Martin O’Neill decisions, and a hat-trick for Christian Eriksen.

Given that we play Sp*rs on Saturday, it wasn’t much fun to see him play as well as he did, and while I’m not one to wish serious injury on players, there was a part of me that hoped he might just tweak his hamstring or something in the final few minutes. Just a few weeks out, nothing more than that, but as it is he’ll come into the game at the weekend full of vim and confidence.

He was as excellent as Ireland were not, and when O’Neill went for it at half-time, removing two-thirds of his midfield to bring on Wes Hoolahan and Aidan McGeady, it was exactly what Denmark would have wanted him to do. They had time and space and then some more space and time, and two superb finishes for Eriksen were capped by a late penalty which was put away by none other than Nicklas Bendtner.

Now, I’m not saying bringing on McGeady should be a firing offence, but people have gone to prison for less. Luckily for Ireland, O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane signed new contracts before the playoffs, so there’s another campaign of this ilk to look forward to. I realise there are issues with the quality and standard of players available to him, but man are Ireland hard to watch as they hoof it long and hope for the best.

Not that a lack of choice is an excuse though. Look at what Iceland (population: 312) have done. They topped their group on the way to their first ever World Cup finals, and while they’re riding high on some recent momentum, it shows that it is possible to make something good happen if you’re organised and you – dare I say it – allow your players to try and pass the ball to each other rather than try and blast it as far away from their own goal as possible at all times.

Anyway, well done to Denmark, they’re off to Russia next summer, and let’s hope Eriksen has got all those goals out of his system.

Elsewhere, there were Arsenal men among the goals in some of the international friendlies that took place. Nigeria beat Argentina 4-2 with Alex Iwobi scoring twice. His second, in particular, was really lovely, and anyone whose heart doesn’t skip a beat when Javier Mascherano gets nutmegged on the way to conceding a goal is dead inside.

You can watch the Iwobi goals here, and it’s good to see him perform. I realise it’s only a friendly, but two goals against Argentina are not to be sniffed at, and let’s not forget that it was his strike last month that helped secure Nigeria’s World Cup place. At club level there are still some questions, of course, especially given that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez play in the positions he’d fill more normally.

However, it’s hard not to think back to that demolition of Chelsea last season when he was instrumental in what looked to be a very exciting forward foursome. Things have changed with the introduction of the back three system, meaning it’s more difficult for the manager to deploy that – and the extra attacking man – but he did have a big part to play in our goal against Man City, and if he can contribute in that way more regularly then he’ll force his way into Wenger’s thinking more often.

It feels to me like he needs some kind of a breakthrough for us, the kind of performance that convinces him he really belongs – and by extension everyone else too. I think there’s a really good player in there that hasn’t quite flourished yet, but hopefully the two goals this week can send him further down the path where he can.

Meanwhile, Alexandre Lacazette scored two as France drew with Germany, while Mesut Ozil got an assist in the same game – watch the action here. That’s a good warm-up for this weekend when we’ll need those two, and Alexis Sanchez, to be at the top of their game for the derby.

Bar any kind of injury issues, I can’t envisage a situation where the manager doesn’t pick that front three that dovetailed so well at Goodison Park a few weeks ago. The Man City team selection remains an odd one for me – even if I could see what some people were saying about it – and I just don’t think Wenger is a man who does caution particularly well.

It has worked from time to time, but it goes against all his natural instincts as a manager, and if we go into Saturday’s game with that kind of mindset it’d add to the worries I already have. I know it’s not exactly sophisticated, but I feel our best way of winning the game is to focus on where we’re strongest – and that’s up front.

So far this season we’ve seen AOL front three just once, and it was superb – albeit against a dismal Everton side. But how are we ever going to know if it can replicate that against better teams if we don’t pick it? Time to go for it.

Update: Thanks to Stayne for reminding me of the Swansea game.

Right, that’s that for the Interlulls until next year. From now on it’s all Arsenal, all the time, with league, Europa League and Carabao Cup on the agenda. Plenty to get our teeth sunk into.

Till tomorrow.

22 COMMENTS

  1. “So far this season we’ve seen AOL front three just once, and it was superb ”

    Played AOL against Swansea also where they were completely flat.

  2. I personally believe that all the teams that have qualified for the World Cup Finals should now withdraw. Have people forgotten how Russia actually got the finals? Have they forgotten the annexing of Crimea or that being gay is punishable in Russia.

    Let all the qualifiers withdraw, then we can invite all the Teams over here and have an unofficial tournament over here next summer. A much safer environment.

      • Calling others ‘pro-Russia homophobes’ just because they’re not as extreme as you makes a mockery of what you’re trying to say.

        • Who did I directly call that? No one! It was merely an observation of those that thumbs down my comment anonymously. Rather than ignore it or leave a comment like yourself they thumbs down it for what reason? My comment of homophobic Russian supporters is just one and was meant tongue in cheek. As for extreme! Extreme is state funded steroid abuse just to win a medal, assisting in electing Foreigners into power, diverting funds from where they are needed to bribe officials so they can hold an event. By all means call me extreme. But as long as people accept the actions of these people it will continue. May be we should not withdraw, just pretend we’re going to. turn up. Not turn up and leave both FIFA and Russian with the most expensive party that no one turned up to.

    • i agree. Anyone with any integrity would decline to be involved in the next two world cups. However FIFA are corrupt so where better to hold a tournament than in a nation which has already demonstrated its willingness to hand over pots of gold?

    • Relax mate. Football and politics shouldn’t be mixed. Besides the whole world is evil if you look closely and stop being brainwashed by the media.

      The same people who will tell you Russia is evil for annexing Crimea will tell you Britain is great for annexing/ owning an Island in Argentina. Yes that far far South in South America.

      And as far as extremes go, I am not homophobic but in my country, rich countries like probably where you are from fund a bit of our budget on conditions. We are forced to teach sexuality to 3 year olds or our education doesn’t get funded at all. So imagine your 3 year old telling you they learnt that if a man has sex with a fellow man then he’s gay. And what’s having sex pa?

      Now imagine if 2018 was in the US and our friend banned all Muslims from attending? Would the media also convince you it’s better than Russia? Not saying it is but just enjoy football. It unites us all

      Plus being a world cup it should be played all over the world. That makes sense. Rotating it around a few rich countries like it is now makes it a “world cup” in a way.

  3. I wonder if AW will do the sensible thing and start Alexis, Ozil, Laca? It worked so well before. That said, I sometimes feel that Arsene sometimes looks at the most obvious solution and does the opposite. If everyone else is encouraging him to do something, he will do something different to prove a point. As much as I am sure he loves winning, I am sure the validation of his ideology is more important to him. That said, even he must realize cutting off his own nose in a london derby in front of a restless home crowd is not the best moment to stroke his ego…

  4. Red hot Eddie Nketiah can’t stop scoring at the moment. I wish he’d be on our bench for the NLD, come on and pop in a late winner.

  5. I was wondering who if anyone I might bother cheering for in what will quite likely be the most shite WC of all time before the next one in Qatar, and now, like a ray of light out of the clouds, I suddenly see who it will be.

    [Trumpets and kazoos blare.]

    Lord Fucking Bendtner!

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